Fernando Alonso might have been going for a third F1 championship, and it was well within his grasp. But he was almost a forgotten man at the finish in Abu Dhabi.
A disastrous race meant that the Spaniard trailed home in a useless seventh place, and as the 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton and the '09 winner Jensen Button sprayed a delirious Sebastian Vettel with champagne, Alonso's last title ('06) must have felt like a long time ago.
It has been a spectacular sporting year for Spain, but this one eluded them. And while Spaniards and Ferrari fanatics will be crushed, few others will have sympathy for a driver and a team that many said cheated its way to the top of the standings.
In a clear breach of the rules, Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa was ordered to let him past in the German Grand Prix. If he'd won the title by any less than the seven points he gained that day, some would have forever viewed his third title as tainted and it's hard to disagree with them.
But Vettel rendered such arguments academic as he continued his ground breaking exploits.
He had already set records as F1's youngest-ever pole and race winner and, by some five months, he's now its youngest-ever champion.
He's worthy of the title too, having claimed no less than 10 pole positions and five checkered flags in 2010. He's undoubtedly quick and supremely self-confident. He has improved all season and was peerless in both qualifying and racing in Abu Dhabi.
Vettel was inspired by the great Michael Schumacher. As Germany's first F1 champion, he made the sport popular there and takes some of the credit for the emergence of a man that has been described as a 'baby Schumi'.
They have more than just nationality in common. While Red Bull's lead driver preferred to be known as the 'new Vettel', his focus, driving style and hands-on approach are reminiscent of the seven-time world champion.
Schumacher's unfulfilled 2010 comeback meant that Vettel got to race the man that once inspired him.
But they didn't race for long in Abu Dhabi. Schumacher's Mercedes was destroyed in a first-lap collision, he departed the scene on foot and 54 laps later Vettel was taking an emotional bow. Germany had witnessed an almost poetic passing of the baton from one champion to another in the next generation.
Like Schumacher, Vettel has the look of a man that could go on to dominate this sport for many years to come.
Alcohol is not allowed in the UAE. So it was not champagne – it was rose water.
The great new champion for the German people!
Vettel is not a 'baby Schumi'. He may look up to Schumacher but Vettel is a lot more of a human being than Schumacher ever will be. Vettel rarely ever blames his car for his failures, Vettel stands against team orders and values team spirit and last but not least he is humble and down to earth.
That is not something Michael Schumacher shares with Sebastian Vettel.
Go Vettel! Pave the way! F1 needs a new King!
Not rose water. They used date sparkling drink that does not really "sparkle". That is why they are pouring it on him instead of spraying him with it.
Oh, and it is incorrect to say that alcohol is not allowed in the UAE. It is allowed for non-muslims to purchase and consume alcohol in hotels and their homes in moderate amounts. Being "drunk" publicly is not allowed. To this extend, alcohol is allowed in some emirates only. For example, Sharjah has 0 alcohol tolerance policy.
How cool that half of the article talks about the Ferrari incident in Germany. Vettel, you are a nobody in the eyes of CNN despite your victory.
Come on, CNN, stop talking about "cheating", that's rubish. Alonso is a great champion, and if he didn't win this time it was because a disastrous decision by Ferrari's engineers who told him to stop to change tyres during turn 15.... had he waited like Button or Kubica until turn 30 or 35 he would have finished 3rd or 4th and he would be the deserving World Champion. He will be back in 2011, don't count on Vetter to "dominate this sport for many years to come". Wait and see.
Fantastic. Great guy and great season for him. Well deserved!!!!
It was rose water only in public...back at the Red Bull garage the party lasted all night and had copious amounts of alcohol (Red Bull and vodka anyone?).
Fantastic that Vettel beat Alonso, the spoiled Spaniard. And really nice that both Hamilton and Button took the other podium places, ensuring that the last three World Champs got in the victory picture. Also good as it means McLaren's aero upgrades finally worked, in the last race! Hey, better late than never...next year McLaren should be tougher....
I feel very sorry for Webber, this was probably his last chance. Mind you, he's earned millions, has a lifestyle anyone would envy, and a long career at it, so perhaps not TOO sorry. But he did say he will be back next year at RB, so perhaps he could get lucky...
Firstly, Congratulations to Vettel.
But let’s not get this twisted, he won because he had the fastest car. If Lewis has that car it would have been a different issue.
I.E Lewis Hamilton World Champion
WELL DONE!! Seb Vettel, truly deserved win and world Championship!!!
I wonder why Robert of London refers to Alonso as spoiled. What I saw was a man with a slower car than the Red Bulls and Mclarens reach the final race in first place... To me, being on top with a worse car makes you a better driver than being on top with the best car.
And before any clown starts the Hockenheim debate, I will remind all of you that without those 7 points, Alonso would have still started this race in first place. Sorry for Alonso, congratulations to a fantastic Vettel.
Vettel is in no position to dominate anything. The thing that made the series so exciting this year was that no-one dominated it and the WDC was contested right to the last race.
If Hammilton had won this Race and Alonso came in 7th as he did, Hamilton would still not have been world champion, so Victor Renaud where would you like to stop with your, ...you probably would want rearrange the whole scenario to siut Hamilton...go and play with your little cars in the back yard
A am not a Fanando fan but he would definatly been a more deserveing champion , Vettel is reckless , with the fastest cars red bull are a major accident waiting to happen with both of there drivers
To all of you who say Fernando Alonso deserve to win, think twice or thrice perhaps.
Firstly, he would not have been in a contending position for the World Championship had it not been for Massa's team order to back off.
Secondly, what kind of sportsman shows his middle finger to another driver, just because he couldn't get pass him. Fernando pulled his middle finger at Vitali Petrov. Why? Because Petrov didn't get a team order to let him pass for his 3rd WC? Or is it because when the rules of the game are actually followed, Alonso is unable to win?
Vettel was the least experienced among the 4 competitors. Its true, he had a good car from Red Bull but a good car and a bad driver does not get you the world championship, ten pole positions and 5 victories. Formula 1 is race, tactics and guts.
Vettel is king and Alonso is rubble. Yeah!!
What a dramatic ending! That's why we love sport :-)
Big congratulations to Vettel and Red Bull Team including Mark Webber, who lost drivers' championship but did great work this year overall.
Boring. if kubica drives in red bull , he would be nr 1
Dominate the sport for years to come! Only time will gauge how accurate this comment is. This is what they said about Hamilton. The simple facts are that all the drivers in the top 10 have the ability to be world champion. What defines them is simply the car and team they race for.
We have all known for years now that the team with the fastest and most reliable car produces the world champion.
Take Ferrari for example. The early season form of the pracing horse was poor and so they were not in contention for the WDC or the Team title, Red Bull dominated and McLaren were second. Then whilst Redbull and McLaren started to develop problems, bad luck and dodgy decisions, Ferrari got their act together.
To have potentially 4 Drivers all able to win the title in the last race of the season absolutely made it exciting.
Red Bull in my opinion deserved to win the campaing this season because they were always in contention and both Webber and Vettle drove very well so congratulations to Redbull.
But for me, the only way to prove who is the best is for all the teams to drive the same cars and set ups.
If we do not do this then for years to come, the winner will be the driver of the fastest and most reliable car
Alcohol is allowed in the UAE, many hotels and bars serve it
Alex, you are right, in Sharjah there is 0% alcolhol tolerance, but they sell it in in the airport even entering country! You cannot consume/carry any acohol, but they sell it to you and expect that you somehow beam it to your house?
"But for me, the only way to prove who is the best is for all the teams to drive the same cars and set ups."
This statement is a little too Nascar like for my taste.
There most definitely is a new era in F1 now.
Sebastian Vettel,Lewis Hamilton,Robert Kubica,Nico Rosberg,Jaime Alguersuari these are the guys who will all be in Top cars in the next 3/4 years and will fight for championships taking over from guys like Schumi,Alonso,Raikkonen,Massa who had dominated the 00's era.
Vettel was a totally deserving champion,10 poles and 5 wins as you said Don and let's not forget all the car problems he had,spark plug problem in Bahrain cost him a certain victory,brake failure in Oz cost him victory and of course the Korean Grand Prix when he had the engine failure which cost him over 60 points.
Alonso drove well in the 2nd half of the season but did not deserve the title,very lucky victories in Bahrain,Germany and Korea so justice was done and Alonso's behaviour after the race in Abu Dhabi when he blamed Petrov for losing him the title was nothing short of childish,should be ashamed of himself.
vettel is an outstanding young driver and brilliant on the curves too.he will rule for years to come!!!!
David seems to have a very short memmory, team orders are a common currency in F1, not just Ferrari but McLaren, Williams, Lotus, and many others have used them in the past, the fact that Massa made the obvious even more obvious does not make it any different.
Faster cars are always an advantage and they are definitive in F1 races where the best qualifyer becomes the only leader in a race, something that Vettel has experienced several times last season. Alonso has been the pilot with the highest records of positions won during the race in 2010 and that's a fact.
Ferrari's poor race strategy during the last grand prix was the only fact that took Alonso away from being 3 times world champion, please do not talk about tactics and guts and try to be a bit more objective...
Vettel might be the world champion but the champion does not necessarily have to be the best driver...
Don Riddell is an anchor and correspondent for ‘World Sport’, hosting the show from CNN’s world headquarters in Atlanta. Since joining CNN in 2002 he has traveled extensively; filing stories from dozens of different countries and interviewing many of the world’s top sports names including Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Michael Schumacher. He covered Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory from Madrid and has broadcast live from the Ryder Cup, the Open Championship, the Rugby World Cup, the Tour de France, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and five consecutive Champions League finals.